“We may define therapy as a search for value.” – Abraham Maslow
It’s amazing how much the stigma around mental health has waned in the very recent past. I remember growing up when people talked about therapy and mental health issues, it was automatically assumed anyone associated with any sort of mental issue was crazy. And anyone who went to therapy was assumed to be weak, both mentally and emotionally.
These days, it is a lot more acceptable and normalized, but there are definitely occasions where the stigmatic attitude towards therapy is still commonplace. I think the most important thing to realize off the bat, is that people going to therapy, usually are not going because they have some wild mental illness. No, the majority of people go to therapy because they are dealing with some life altering challenges or have a set of circumstances that they are having a hard time coping with. And with that, comes their own well-being affecting how they function through daily life.
Everybody goes through challenges like that at some point in their life, so you’re not alone. You could be dealing with work stressors or personal life stressors, or maybe it’s both at the same time. And at some point the effects of these challenges can mount up and start to become too overwhelming for anyone to handle. That is where therapy can come in and help provide not only support and a willing/objective ear, but also give you the tools to better deal with whatever challenges you may be facing.
So I say all of that to say that I myself have gotten back into therapy, or counseling, as I prefer to call it personally. I started counseling back in my senior year of high school when I realized I had anxiety issues, but during my college years I forewent doing sessions for a variety of reasons, other health issues being more prominent at the time for one. However, since graduating college in 2013, I have gone back and forth with it. These last couple months have been trying for me. It’s not one specific thing, but it is a cumulative amounts of situations, professionally and personally, that have had me up, down, and around like a roller coaster. The crazy thing is, none of these things if left alone in a vacuum would affect me that much, but when everything seems to be happening at once, that’s when the walls feel like they’re closing in on me. Needless to say that when that overwhelming feeling hits me, my anxiety is ramped up and my days are clogged because of it and I don’t have the ability to untangle them on my own.
So to have the ability to go to counseling and be able to talk out my struggles is such a saving grace. I have gone back to my old ways recently, keeping things bottled up and letting them fester until I can feel myself ready to explode at any second. I know how much counseling has helped me with that in the past, and I know how much it will help me going forward.
In fact, I had my counseling session today and the breath of fresh air I felt afterwards is indescribable. I came out of it with a new perspective on a certain situation and how to approach it in the healthiest way. That’s the good stuff, that’s when it’s easy to say, “Ah man, therapy is so great, so healthy. You should do it too!”. That was today though, and that is not the norm, not for me at least. Usually each session is harder and more painful than the last in my personal experience.
One thing counseling has done for me, is that it has forced me to take a hard look at myself and take accountability for aspects of my life that I used to blame on other circumstances or other people. And I’ll be honest, those days are more so the rule instead of the exception for me. Having to face all my flaws and have them out and the open to be addressed is both agitating and downright scary at times. Most importantly though, having to face them has essentially humbled me. It’s made me realize how much work I have to do on myself before I can expect anything out of others.
There are times in counseling where I’ve felt so painfully vulnerable and embarrassed. When I’m asked what feels like so many invasive and personal questions about myself that I have a hard time answering. The best way I can describe it, is that I feel emotionally and mentally naked. I can’t hide here, I am open in every conceivable way.
With all that said, and even though it sounds counter intuitive, I think feeling all of that is a good thing, a healthy thing. I’ll say this to people who may have never done therapy/counseling before and are perhaps interested in finally taking that plunge.. it is hard, unshielded, frightening, but ultimately rewarding work.
When you first start, there are a lot of parts to it that can be difficult and embarrassing. But I think the first step is realizing that despite those initial feelings, in the long run, this will benefit you. So through the embryonic stage of your counseling journey, you may tap into some negative emotions and perhaps painful memories as you explore your issues. That process can be overwhelming, because instead of cutting the head off the problem you came for, it is like you’re finding new ones to add on top of that. It’s like you’re drowning in the psychological energy you were trying to push far away.
One thing I can promise though, is that feeling does not last forever! It is the beginning of a journey towards feeling great, better than you’ve ever felt in your life. That doesn’t mean you won’t have some sessions where you leave feeling like crap again, but as you mature in your journey, you realize that those days are bound to happen, but yet your overall trend is shooting in a positive direction and that you find yourself healing and getting healthier with each visit.
Therapy/Counseling certainly may not be something everyone desires or feels like they need, but I will live my life believing that everyone can absolutely benefit from it. There are certainly low lows with it, but there are a lot of high highs as well. I can only speak for myself at this point, but know that despite how hard it can be at first, you will come out on the other side so much healthier than you went in.
I hope that if you were on the edge of taking the leap of faith, that maybe by reading this, I helped push you off that ledge.